I am amazed, but not surprised, with all the ranting and raving about Pope Francis’s visit to America – about all the things he has said and hasn’t said, the code words and phrases that he allegedly used or didn’t use.
Unlike the previous two popes, who filtered their hearts through a more systematic and structured theological or academic approach, this one speaks more purely from his heart. Like Catholic doctrine itself, he is neither conservative nor liberal. He does not toe-the-line in the way that any one group would like him to. Thus, the rants.
Have people heard or read his actual words? I wonder. It seems like they’re reacting more to what the commentators claim he said as opposed to what he actually said, which has been the case since Francis became Pope. I heard and read/re-read his speech to Congress. I didn’t find anything alarming as an orthodox Christian. He encouraged Congress and the American people to respect the dignity of life at all stages, to be responsible and compassionate with wealth and the environment and where immigrants, refugees and the poor are concerned. He offered no prescriptive solutions nor dictation about how to do that. There was no socialist manifesto nor capitalistic dogma. He didn’t attack anyone, but held up four Americans as representations of what is great about America. All four were appropriate examples for what he was lauding: liberty, equality, justice and God-motivated reflection about humanity.
Was this a lost opportunity for those who wanted him to say what they wanted him to say in the way they wanted it said? I guess so. Do people lament that he says things that seem to fit their adversaries’ agendas? Probably. In that case, both sides have reason to gripe – just as they can gripe about Jesus, who constantly defied partisan expectations in the first century and in ours.
This Pope reminds me I am meant to be a Christian first, living out a life of grace and obedience to Christ as His disciple. Further down the list is being a good citizen, and then maybe a member of a political party.
Too bad he had to come all this way to show us where our real priorities are – for better or worse. Or maybe it’s a good thing, if we’ll stop complaining long enough to listen.